Book of interest: “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” (my thoughts)

Today I began listening to the audiobook Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance and am currently on chapter 10, putting it on pause until tomorrow. Definitely speaks to my own spirit and life experiences, both directly and indirectly among people I knew.

To begin with, rarely have I heard of anybody else referring to a Memaw and Peppa. That’s what my stepdad’s parents were known as too. Memaw Allen we called her, and Peppa Pete we called him. Weird to write down those names now since I’ve long since switched to referred to them as simply Mr. and Mrs. Allen, having effectively divorced myself from accepting them as kin since back in my teenage years.

J.D. Vance’s description of his Appalachian Kentucky-rooted family shares similarities with what I’m familiar with in my section of the Deep South, though notable differences as well. Enough similarities though that his story really is resonating with me, reminding me very much of various family members, particularly my Papa (my maternal grandpa, not to be confused with Pepa Pete mentioned prior). Though I’d say that my own people tend to be a bit more conservative both in mannerism and political affiliation, as well as religious involvement. Interesting to observe the overlap between our two camps, not that it should be too surprising considering we share historical ethnic heritages (Scottish primarily). His people and my people came originally from the same regions of the United Kingdom at roughly the same time, belonging to the same socioeconomic class as well. Some went to Appalachia whereas others populated deeper parts of the South. The rowdiness he described there among his people is reminiscent of that which was described by Dr. Thomas Sowell in his book Black Rednecks and White Liberals, which also resonated with me. But the differences are worth noting here. He spoke of his people being Christian yet rarely attending church services, whereas many of my people remain lifelong active in their churches. He tells of his people voting Democrat because they were union folks and associated that political party with being for the working men, while my people viewed the Conservative political party as more beneficial for the working class, if only because they viewed government encroachment on their lives as doing more harm than good more often than not. Though I can see the commonality in the underlying political sentiments despite our camps belonging on opposite sides of the political divide, most markedly in their distrust of getting the Law involved in their personal affairs and vying to align themselves with the political party least likely to screw them and theirs over (though it appears we’ve all failed in that regard, both political parties demonstrating over time that they don’t give much of a damn about the working class aside from paying lip service to gain votes).

Parts of the book struck me as very funny, particularly when he described his grandparents hillbilly ways and inability (and/or unwillingness) to adjust to the established middle class norms and expectations in Ohio where they migrated to in search of jobs and an escape from Appalachian poverty. My Papa shared a lot in common with his people, from the gruff talk to the gun-toting, as well as the years of drinking and the damage that did to his family. But also the defiant pride and desire for your children and grandchildren to go to college so as not to have to work in laboring jobs like he and others in his generation had to. So much Vance said on all of that had me tripping down memory lane about my home county in Mississippi and various family members and neighbors. But we’re not hillbillies since we never resided in hill country — we were rednecks. Though I suppose to outside onlookers we all appeared to simply be “white trash” (a pejorative I do not like or accept being applied to my people).

Our stories differed in important ways, such as my mother thankfully not subjecting us to a carousel of husbands and boyfriends (to which I give credit to my stepdad for working with her as much as he did expressly to ensure that did not happen). And my mother never became a drinker nor a drug user (prescription or otherwise). Was just crazy in her own right, though not necessarily in a uniquely Southern/redneck fashion (we speculate it being due to brain damage likely experienced early in life during a car accident). But I knew those kind of people too. And I also wound up being raised largely by my grandparents and proved better off as a result thanks to the stability that offered. I also grew up hearing rough stories of violence and abuse, including episodes between my grandparents back when Papa was drinking. I can also understand the feistiness  among women that he described, though my own female family members tended to be a little more reserved about it than his. Among my people it was less acceptable for women to smoke and drink and curse like the men did, though some did anyway (myself included). And even among the men it wasn’t viewed as positive attributes to do so, the only exception being when they channeled their aggressive tendencies in the service for protecting the family. There is especially where I saw the women behave like junkyard dogs themselves, because all bets are off when it comes to defending one’s own. It’s a matter of pride and protecting, checking disloyalty and disrespect. And yes, it can go too far and wind up creating total chaos in some circumstances, which I myself have had to discover the hard way in my own behavior and reactions.

Perhaps that’s the biggest difference I noted there between our camps of people: self-control. Not that mine are terrific at maintaining self-control, but it’s definitely prized among them in many social situations. Because they deem it necessary for moving up in this world, though they too expressed feeling conflicted about it when it came to accepting poor treatment from others. There’s an underlying resentment toward those who look down upon you, who see you as nothing more than a member of a downtrodden class not worth much and treat you accordingly, leading to the manifestation of a great deal of class-related distrust (which I too continue to struggle with). On one hand they want you to do well in school so as to have greater opportunities, but on the other they don’t want you to get “too big for your britches” and forget where you come from and who helped you along the way. It does create a bit of cognitive dissonance within us to come up with so many contradictory messages. Want your daughter to marry well but then resent the man she does marry because he’s some highfalutin academic who doesn’t really with the rest of the family. Kind of sets up a no-win situation in a way. But that’s the way it goes. Probably has something to do with why I prefer to date working-class men — feels like there’s too much of a social divide between myself and my people and folks of middle-class origins for a romantic partnership to likely prove workable long-term.

In chapter 7 where J.D. Vance spoke of his Pepa dying, it really pulled at my heart strings. Especially when he stated that his Pepa died on a Tuesday and how that Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Tuesday’s Gone” played on the radio afterward. Was out walking in a neighborhood while listening to that part and had to turn off the audiobook so as to compose myself. Breaks my heart to hear of someone losing such an important father-figure while they’re still so young, he only being in his early teens by then. My Papa died 6 years ago when I was 29 and I still can’t barely talk about it without crying. Just can’t. Losing the big man in one’s life is a tragedy we don’t easily recover from apparently. In J.D. Vance’s case, it was so sudden with no warning, which is really sad. My Papa had cancer so we knew he was going down for a year and a half and tried to prepare ourselves for it, so much as one is truly able to do so. And I can understand how one wrestles with the memory of someone so important to them who also happened to have had drama with others in the family, largely due to his own doing through drinking and acting wrongly. You love him so much, and yet you can’t pretend he was perfect. We’re lucky in that our grandpas did change over time, they did both quit drinking (his in 1983, I believe he said; mine in 1990) and they sought to become better people toward their loved ones so as to find some sort of redemption. I think there’s a lot to learn from life stories like that, demonstrating that many people we consider good and valuable had to make a conscience effort to become that over time. They weren’t necessarily born that way, or their life experiences didn’t incline them toward a more noble direction originally. They had to make the choice themselves at some point, and often it comes after years of pain and strife created within their own families unfortunately. Pain likes to pay forward, and that can be a very difficult cycle to break. Speaks a lot to their merit as people, I would say. To come up in such rough circumstances, to fall into bad habits, and to eventually pull out of it. But we each wind up experiencing these events in life differently, especially us grandkids who weren’t yet alive for the worst of the storm.

He mentioned a book that really resonated with him that actually was about black people in urban areas and the problems they face. Many times I’ve noticed similar overlaps between members of the black community and my people as well. People like Thomas Sowell attribute that to a shared Southern culture, which I don’t doubt plays a role to whatever extent. But this is one reason why I find it difficult to view black people as if foreign, as if their community’s problems are entirely unique. There are similarities worth noting there, as I hope more of us explore in going forward since we’re all Americans here and share more in common than some may care to acknowledge.

When he spoke about his mom claiming her addiction was a “disease” I couldn’t help but cringe. He’s absolutely on to something when he stated that regarding addiction as a disease, while that may be somewhat true insofar as brain chemistry is concerned, winds up causing the addict to have less success in kicking the bad habit. It’s almost as if thinking of addiction like a disease winds up being some sort of crutch whereby one can dispense with personal agency, and that’s not a good situation. He spoke of his Pepa giving up alcohol after years of drinking without much fanfare or going to meetings, and my Papa handled it the same way. Yet I see so many out here returning to treatment facilities and turning to AA only to relapse again and again. But we’re not supposed to judge them because they have a “disease.” Yeah, a disease of the spirit, I’d say. An excuse to give up and give in to craven desires that destroy one’s life. It’s no good. Am currently 6 months into sobriety myself and while I’m proud of me, I’m very wary of myself also because I know me and I know the allure of alcohol and how much trouble it’s caused me and others. It’s an ongoing decision to leave that lifestyle and substance alone, one that has to be renewed with each waking day and bout of temptation. It’s not easy, but it is indeed a personal decision. A choice, ultimately. Yet some folks prefer instead to remain infantile and blame all off on external factors, as if the substance itself has the power to penetrate our bodies without our willful involvement. He has my sympathy in dealing with all of that. I’ve known many people who’ve had drug-addicted and/or alcohol-dependent parents and it sounds like a horrible way to come up. My former partner’s parents both drank (and still do) and I hear the resentment in him pretty frequently, reminded of the fighting and negligence. My ex-step-aunt and her husband were like that too, and it wound up producing nothing but carnage. Some people can manage their drinking and drug use better than others, but many can’t.

He spoke of his mom being unable to comprehend the significance of her father dying on her kids who viewed him as a father figure. Gotta admit, no disrespect intended toward the author (considering how sensitive he admits to being when it comes to his family), that level of selfishness burned my soul a bit to hear. My mother was like that in her own way, unable to comprehend how I could view her father differently than she did, she opting to blame everything in her life on him. And when he died, she didn’t attend the funeral and didn’t even so much as contact me or anybody else in the family. Asked her last year for the first time what she thought of his passing and she simply said she would not talk about it, so I dropped the inquiry. To her he’s a monster. To my aunt, he was her daddy but they grew apart emotionally over time, and I think she was bitter about that. To my uncle, he was a frustrating man but his daddy, and I think he has a lot of conflicted emotions too. None of them aired their grievances to him while he was alive, so now they’ll fester on, unresolved. Very unfortunate. But I can recall back when I was little and my grandparents were fighting for custody of me and I got caught in the middle and was made to choose on the spot between my mother and my Papa. I didn’t know what to do, being only 6 at the time, so I laid still until she began crying and walked away. In her heart I doubt she’ll ever let me live that down, and it still bothers me sometimes since I didn’t know what to do. I had to go with him — he was more trustworthy than her, more dedicated. Yet all she’s ever seen is her own view of him and her own sorrows from her upbringing, conveniently forgetting that she had a kid that had to be raised by them and who bonded with them. But in her warped mind, she just sees betrayal. As a result, I now see her as a lost cause. Like a perpetual child unable to grasp anything outside of her own perspective. Forever. No drugs or alcohol even needed to cause this to be the case. It is very frustrating to deal with, especially when you felt loyal to them all and loved them all.

I hate those memories. They always get to me, no matter how many times I’ve been over them in my head and recognize the situation for what it is. Left me feeling like the best way to stop this stupid cycle was to refuse to ever become a mother myself. Never wanted to let anybody down to that extent. Tarnishes one’s view of motherhood, whether we mean for it to or not. Some are able to overcome these types of upbringings and do better by their own children, which is good. But some of us think it’s best to withdraw from taking on such obligations, uncertain of ourselves in such a scenario and very wary of what the past brought. Guess we all must handle such matters in our own individual ways since there indeed is no one-size-fits-all answer to be found. That aggressiveness he spoke of I feel inside myself and express from time to time, always making me think that it wouldn’t be suitable around children. Not in this day and age, most definitely. Especially not outside of a tribe where such expressions are regarded as the norm, though even there it tends to prove dysfunctional. In my mind’s eye I can hear police sirens and crying, and I’ve never wanted any part of it, never wanted to bring children into such a life. Right or wrong, that’s been my resolve since I was young and remains so. Tangles my emotions to read or hear of parents fucking up, of children have to raise themselves and one another, of new men being cycled in and out of kids’ lives, of mothers who don’t understand the harm they’re creating, etc. Ugh…it messes with my head. Definitely stopped me in my tracks long ago, thank god. I just cannot imagine bearing the burden of bringing new people here and then winding up failing them. Yet, it goes on all the time…

Burden. J.D. Vance mentioned that word in reference to his Memaw having to raise him. I can most definitely relate with that. It’s quite embarrassing to feel like a burden on one’s family, so once again he and his sister have my sympathies on that. My Grandma would say things sometimes too, mostly when I was a teenager, like how she couldn’t afford me anymore. Hence why I kept moving around, trying to find ways to take care of myself so I wouldn’t be such a burden on her and Papa. Though I kept having return to her home, at least until I was old enough to attend college. Went into debt for it but never returned home to live again. Gave her and Papa money throughout my 20s in an effort to try to offset some of what they had to spend on raising me, as well as paying back what I owed her directly. Yet that feeling of being a burden hauntingly lingers on. I feel it with friends and loved ones even now sometimes. Live alone and try to be as independent as possible, yet still it lingers, whispering that if not for others I would be nothing and that I ought to find some sort of way to succeed so as to make it all worth it in the end. However success is to be defined here. Never do I forget where I come from or how much I am indebted to my grandparents for taking me in and providing so much love. Their commitment to me was a game-changer, no question. But I don’t wish feeling like a burden even on my worst enemies. Messes with the head and trains you to see yourself as a lesser-than, like a little parasite — needy. Because you can’t help but be needy as a kid. But when your own parents can’t or won’t take care of you properly, others have to, and that entails a sacrifice. I don’t know if it’s possible for such a realization to not color one’s outlook on life. But such is life. Guess it’s most important to take to heart what others have been willing to do for us and to carry that love forward in whatever ways we can. They made a choice because they love us, and I’m infinitely grateful for that. The alternative would’ve been to be perceived as a burden by people who didn’t give a damn about us, which would’ve been so much worse.

I know I’m rambling off on here a lot about my own people and upbringing, but this book tapped into all of that. And it’s a very good book so far. Very worthwhile. The author became a lawyer, so he really did manage to succeed. That makes me very happy for him. I look forward to continuing on in chapter 10 tomorrow.

“Jordan Peterson LIVE: 12 Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos”

His 4th appearance on the Rubin Report:

Funk rejection (an update)

Pulling up out of the funk I’ve been in the last few days. Was kind of rough for a minute there. Very likely hormones played a role. Not much can be done about it other than to wait it out. Might make some folks uncomfortable to even hear about, but so be it. It comes and goes, but always it will return. Figured out by now that to expect to live without the funk’s repeated interruptions is a pipe dream. Certainly helps to pull out of it when my loved ones and I are getting along. And I’ll leave it at that for now.

Went in for a massage yesterday, courtesy of a gift certificate received by a lady I work for. Had the masseuse lady work mostly on my left arm and back since those are my problem spots currently. And she did an amazing job! Haven’t had many professional massages (maybe 3 now total), and that was the best so far. Confirmed that I probably do have a mild case of so-called tennis elbow from strength training, so I have to take it easier on my triceps for a while. Need to pay better attention to my form too. But then she said it seemed to her that I have a disc problem in my lower back, which I figured has been the case for years. Can’t afford to see a doctor for that, so my only option is to strengthen my back and core enough to manage it, as I’ve been doing. There will be no surgeries in my future, no MRI scans, nada. Only physical therapy on my own and with my gym trainer. Been knowing this has been a problem for a long time already, perhaps since teenagehood when I first began experiencing acute lower back pain, but regular exercise has helped immensely in reducing the pinched nerve pain down my left leg over the last 3 years. It returns occasionally, but I’m doing a lot better these days than I was about 4 years ago. So, in short, strength training has helped, and I intend to keep it up for the rest of my life in order to maintain the feeling of relief.

We humans weren’t designed the greatest when it comes to our backs. Becoming bipedal messed us all up apparently. Ha!  But c’est la vie. My best guyfriend has been suffering major back pain again lately also, and he went in to see the doctor this past week since it got to where he couldn’t stand. Already had a surgery many years ago for discs in his back, and now other discs are acting up on him. Unfortunate. Difficult to enjoy living when your back hurts too much. He’s always been an active guy, but still he has to go through this. Not sure what to say about it other than to expand his exercise regimen since biking doesn’t really help build the muscles to support the back. He has medical insurance so they’ve provided him with pain pills and an exercise plan, with the option to undergo another surgery in the future if needed.

Told both him and Former that they ought to go in and see the massage lady I met with yesterday. Might do them each some good. Of course Former will have nothing to do with it, for whatever reasons.

Been cooking a decent amount lately, per my new norm since I’m trying to improve my diet. Fell in love with roasted brussels sprouts (who’d a thunk it?!). Been eating on leftovers of a beef mac-n-cheese with broccoli cuts tossed in — came out terrific. Made avocado/banana brownies again a week back, which were delicious, but I forgot to freeze them so they went bad pretty quickly. Today I whipped together an olive oil-based pasta salad with zucchini and mozzarella chunks to take over to Former’s house later since he’s cooking up a turkey dinner tonight. Looking forward to all that. Throwing caution to the wind in terms of carbs today so as to enjoy his spread. Last night I experimented with zucchini hasselback, which was just a notched zucchini filled with pepperoni slices and mozzarella (and seasoned with red pepper flakes and garlic powder), baked in an aluminum foil tent until fairly tender. Turned out good. Not a bad alternative to pizza.

What else? Been listening to a couple new audiobooks. Recently I finished The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains by Robert H. Lustig. An excerpt from his publisher’s summary of the book:

While researching the toxic and addictive properties of sugar for his New York Times best seller Fat Chance, Robert Lustig made an alarming discovery – our pursuit of happiness is being subverted by a culture of addiction and depression from which we may never recover.

Was a pretty good book by a pediatric endocrinologist. Would recommend it to my peers.

The book I’m currently listening to is Ryan Holiday’s Ego Is the Enemy. It’s so far covered a lot of what I’ve already read elsewhere, but I do really appreciate his delivery style and am planning to check out his book The Obstacle Is the Way in the future.

Haven’t been taking time with any print books lately, preferring instead to listen along while going about my day.

For the record, it’s now been over 21 weeks since embarking on my commitment to quit drinking. No slip-ups, though I did have some strong cravings last weekend for some reason. Former was drinking a strawberry margarita in front of me and I damn-near reached over to sample it. Then he’d partaken in a big sale at some local grocer that marked their alcohol way down, dragging home a crate full of bottles including Captain Morgan rum and wine and some blue stuff. Kind of tripped my trigger for a minute there, but then I refocused my attention and forgot about it. Gets easier and easier to leave alcohol alone. Already know what kind of a beast that particular drug can turn me into, not needing to reconfirm it. Moderation never worked for me, so the only option now is to simply leave it be. And so I do. But the cravings still come and go, as they perhaps always will. That little gremlin in my brain likes to try to remind me of the positive side to drinking, but thankfully I remain well-aware of the downside to it too. Can’t recall one without the other. Any substance that causes me to act like a fool and quit liking myself is no friend of mine.

An old man bar pal called up the other day out of the blue. Might be what initially set my mind to thinking about alcohol again. He asked where I’ve been, said he’d heard through the grapevine that I’d quit drinking, and then suggested that I should still come to the bar and just abstain from drinking while there. Not too interested, frankly. Especially not so as to visit with that particular grabby old man. Told him off a number of times already for groping me and saying perverted shit. Wish he’d lose my phone number (which I gave him a couple years ago when he gave me rides to and from the bar a couple times, before he turned as gropey). But of course everybody out at the bar likes the guy, thinks he’s swell and makes excuses for his behavior toward the younger female clientele (of course we’re all younger than him there). People used to say that I was “being mean” to him when I checked him, that he’s an old man so I should be more tolerant and forgiving. Ugh. Sometimes I really loathed my fellow bar patrons. They liked to make excuses for the sorriest shit. And I wound up looking like a bitch for not going along with the program. Oh well. So be it. I am a bitch. And I don’t like 70+-year-old men pawing at me while I’m out. He’s not entitled to do that. They can all put up with it if it suits them, but it bothered me, so I said so. And yet he still adores me, still considers me special and tries to get me to communicate with him. Says I remind him of his wife when she was younger. Lovely. I gave him a bunch of chances, but now I prefer to avoid him. Sure, it does make me feel kind of like a bad person to be so bitchy toward an old man, but then again, I also am really perturbed to see all these old men out in society demonstrating themselves to be such crappy role models. Don’t teach us anything; just prefer to act like perverts. Just here to get their jollies off messing with the (relative) youths. Gets old. Makes me feel queasy inside. I put up with such nonsense for years from a number of guys in trying to appear easy-going to those I was surrounded by. Well, they’re not worth it. Bunch of loser drunks with skewed consciences so far as I can tell anymore. Not saying that against all of them, but plenty of them, yes. Besides, those who aren’t like the rest still do tend to behave as they do so as not to rock the boat, so how’s that really any better? They enable one another.

So, yeah, I still have a decent amount of animosity toward the barscene. Probably partially because since leaving it I find myself a lot more isolated, yet I know this is for the best. Better than hanging around with a bunch of people who only concern themselves with hedonistic escapism. Gotta keep that party rolling on and on and on, lest they be forced to reckon with real life and how they’re failing at it. Fucking depressing. Depressed me about myself when I was a part of it too. Fifteen years is a long time to devote to such people and places, so I’ve paid my dues. Don’t owe any of them anything anymore. Their lives are their own, and they can poison and ruin them if they so desire. Not my problem and I don’t wish to belong among them. Been there, done that, and damn-near wrecked what I have in the process. And all for what? So as to lose yourself within a crowd? To try to tune out reality? Well, reality has proven to be awfully persistent regardless of how much alcohol I tried pouring on it. Better to just face the facts than keep on dallying until you wind up losing more.

I met so many characters in that lifestyle over the years. But when I sit back now, a few months removed from the last batch, with a sober perspective, I’m unable to grasp what the great appeal really was. Wicked women and stupid men like to populate bars. Myself included in that assessment. What makes us wicked? Remaining immature, which alcohol aids in by allowing us a repeated escape. Keeps one’s thoughts dulled, along with our reflections and introspection. Plus, it puts us in contact with others doing the same thing who are more than happy to pat us on the backs and tell us shit’s not our fault and to lay blame elsewhere. Because every regular in such taverns is looking to escape personal responsibility and negative thoughts about their own past choices and behaviors. Hence why we regularly drank — to escape something. To delude ourselves into believing the problems didn’t lie in us, that we were unfortunate victims of circumstance. That life is largely about luck so all we really need to do is wait around for that stroke of fortune to come our way (no active work required on our parts). To cry in our beers over past loved ones and heart-breaks and questions we can’t find answers to. To drown out the past instead of finding a way to forge through its remnants. To meet up with sexual partners to add to the hedonistic experience and provide an outlet for the mounting tension within. To await death, partying in the meantime, telling ourselves that you only live once and that there’s no point focusing on the things that bring us down. Etc. I’m very familiar with how that lifestyle operated.

Sometimes I get to feeling like I was put here so as to provide an example of what not to do. But now I’m taking steps toward better directions, so perhaps now I can redefine my personal purpose as a striving toward redemption. Lounging around in the muck with those perfectly content behaving as swines doesn’t help one’s soul one iota, especially not when that path is embraced for years on end. And now I stand a mere 5 months removed from it. So I’m still finding my bearings and trying to figure out where to go from here. Figure my Papa is probably proud that I gave it up too, and that gives me some peace. But I am still angry at what that lifestyle represented to me and how I let myself go within it, plus how much jeopardy I placed myself in by dealing with the wrong sorts, as well as what unnecessary drama and jeopardy I created.

It’s very difficult to forgive others, but I’m finding it especially difficult to forgive myself. Though I know I have to let that go eventually so as to move on, the bitterness that realization produces still has a strong hold on me. Makes me angry at myself along with all the others who aided and abetted me. Looking back on them all, I’m having trouble accepting them for who they are. Yes, sure, they’re a bunch of fallible humans like myself who are destined to learn things the hard way, as is natural. But damn. The severity of our blindness and how that spills over onto others is astounding. Willful blindness in many cases. Advantage-taking motivations and raw selfishness. Like not only did we lose our ways, but then we came to encourage others to follow in suit. We spread it around and lured others in so as not to feel lonely in the games we played. To feel validated perhaps, instead of shunned like we very probably deserved. But I was shunned regardless, before then, during, and still now. Gives me mixed feelings there since it felt like the shunning was what I initially (as a very young adult) was aiming to escape in the first place. And you don’t feel like such a misfit when you’re surrounded by a bunch of other misfits.

Too bad it was all an illusion. Didn’t fix a thing and instead created quite a few added problems. But here we are. Onward and upward. Can’t change the past.

There are some very painful aspects from the last few years that will continue to trouble me for many moons to come undoubtedly. Things that I succumbed to. Ways that I behaved. Surprised myself with how cruel I could be. And the reminders are always around. I’d love to blame the drug, but alcohol is only part of the equation. An important part, no question, but only one aspect. The rest involves reckoning with my own human potential, which, come to find out, isn’t so rosy and innocent. People say that you’ll bog yourself down in thinking about all of that, spinning it around in your head, that you’re just at risk of developing a new victim complex of sorts. Hmm. I can see where they’re coming from with that, and I am being careful in this stage as a result. But I have mixed feelings on such claims. You really have to see yourself as you actually are, not what you wish you were, not what you pretend to be, right and wrong. That stage in personal exploration is undeniably important. To try to skip that step is likely to wind one up seeking out another addiction to hide within. And that I cannot tolerate or allow. I’d rather be hard on myself and get it over with than treat myself with kid’s gloves and not ever get to the bottom of this situation, thereby risking history repeating. I understand why others shy away from such talk, as they’re so prone to do, but I am not them nor do I wish to pretend to be like them any longer. I can take the fight and I’m not so scared of myself and my capabilities. Seen enough of my own dark side that I can’t help but be well aware of it. Can’t force a genie back in a bottle once it’s out. Gotta learn to live with it. So that’s where I’m at presently.

So yeah, this is how my days go. One foot in front of the other. Try to keep steady, accepting that sometimes that’s not possible but putting alcohol in my mouth will most certainly only make things worse, as the past has proven. Don’t plan on staying in this state of mind forever, but this remains where I’m at right now. Life doesn’t always (or often) unfold the way we think it should or wish it would. And there’s no shortage of people out there willing to pat us on the back and help in deflecting responsibility elsewhere, but that’s not actually helpful, nice as it might feel at times. If it feels good, question it — that’s become my motto. Because we tend to be weak in the face of comforts and pleasures, though it should be evident by now that a lot of those lull us into a false sense of security. Which certainly doesn’t make us stronger and more competent in managing our lives.

All is a bunch of lessons to learn, and plenty winds up being learned the hard way. Such is life. Hop over one trap only to find ourselves mired in another we didn’t see. That’s just the way it often goes. But that’s also what makes life so interesting and perplexing. If nothing else, it keeps us busy in trying to make heads or tails out of what’s going on. Some days I’m up to the challenge, while others I’d rather hide my head, wondering what the hell this is all for. And that’s precisely the wrong question to be asking. THAT is where we succumb to seeing ourselves and others as victims of circumstances instead of as fellow travelers in this journey we call Life. Giving in to nihilism and destructive tendencies is too easy to be of much (if any) value. Counter-intuitive as it seems, it’s almost as if trying to carry the toughest and heaviest load we can bear winds up bringing greater life satisfaction, as well as provides a better example to others so as to lessen their fears. But I’m still sorting all of that out and won’t make grand claims. I just know that we’re capable of a lot more than we typically give in this life. Sitting up in a bar is for laborers after a long day working, not for commonfolk running from reality.

Bracing for another winter

Feeling kind of down today. Not sure why. Feeling very sensitive.

Finished listening to the audiobook The Chimes by Charles Dickens and before it ended, it had me crying. It’s an emotional day. But at least it had a happy ending, unlike a lot of the books I typically read/listen to.

Grandma called this afternoon, and we had a nice chat. Was good to hear from her since we haven’t been talking as frequently over the last year or so. My best girlfriend tried beeping in too, but I texted to let her know I’d get back to her another day. The timing in their calls, one after the other and both directly after the audiobook went off, had me kind of wondering. As if we can sense one another sometimes despite being many miles apart…

Just wandering thoughts. Superstitiousness never seems to leave me.

Didn’t get to go to the shooting range today as scheduled since Former had a long, bad day at work. So probably for the best for both of us that we skipped today. We went out for Mexican food instead and then lounged around until my late-night appointment called me across town. Promises to be a busy weekend with several scattered appointments throughout, plus a meeting with a new client, plans to meet for coffee with an older lady friend, then plans for dinner on Sunday with my best guyfriend. Maybe we’ll  find time to go to the range later tomorrow afternoon.

Discarded my diet the last couple of days. Had bread last night and tortillas today. Ah well. It’s highly doubtful it’s a food plan I can reasonably expect to adhere to daily no matter what. Life just doesn’t roll that way. But it has been teaching me a lot and I intend to go forward with an eye toward reducing carbohydrate intake most days. Though probably not as low as the keto diet calls for. One issue I’ve had with that low of carb intake is that it’s left me feeling weaker when doing strength training, I’d be doing a set that I’m used to doing but then need to pause after a few reps, then continue, then pause again before finishing out. That kept happening throughout Wednesday’s training session, and Former blames the lack of carbs. So I’ll look into it further.

Had all kinds of things on my mind lately. Many societal concerns, plus private worries over my loved ones and myself staying safe. Though we live in a pretty safe area, I do get nervous in wondering how long it will remain this way. Seeing as how the crime and homicide rates have been ticking upward in recent years. Paranoid? Maybe a little. Mostly just concerned since the close men in my life have a habit of being very helpful toward strangers, and I really hope the day doesn’t come when someone tries to take advantage of their hospitality. Like, for example, on the side of the road when they’re claiming to have car problems. Hell no, I don’t trust people. Well, I do to a point since we have to, but that doesn’t mean I’d put it past a few of them running a scam or acting a fool on the bike trails (as some already do) or trying to break into houses (as already happened at Former’s place a few years back). I trust people to be what we humans tend to be, which is a bunch of opportunists. Until I know you I can’t help but be a bit wary about you. And I sometimes wish my menfolk would be a bit more so as well. Which is sad since it dampens a person’s spirit to have to walk around worrying about who might be trying to work an angle. But we hear the local news and should be aware that things are shifting in this relatively calm city as it continues growing and experiencing so many newcomers from other states. I don’t trust the suburban kids either — too many of them are up to no good also.

LoL  So yeah. In my own little misanthropic mood over here today. Just journaling it out of my system for a spell, like usual. I think it’s all of us aging that’s getting to me. Gets to realizing how vulnerable we all are (and probably always have been, though it was nice feeling blissfully oblivious in our youth). Car accidents. Workplace accidents. Asshole opportunistic people to look out for. And now that fall is creeping toward winter and it’s getting colder outside, there’s the upcoming snow and ice to brace ourselves against.

Now that I think about it, I likely get melancholic around this time every year. Winter’s approaching, and that alone always makes me nervous. Winters here can be so harsh, much harsher than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. But this is the new home, so I try to adjust and get on with it. But when your car starts sliding on ice and the others around you are doing the same, you can’t help but get nervous. Especially if you’ve ever gone off-roading as a result before (as I have once many years back — was pretty scary). Then people get stuck and need to be pushed to get started, so the guys get out to help, but there’s the worry about another car coming along and sliding into them. Scares me straight every winter knowing this going on. I’m not strong enough to help much with pushing, so I don’t usually stop for people other than to call help for them. They say I’d only get in the way otherwise. This place just turns into a big ice rink every winter (except last winter, the mildest on record in a long time). Gotta be careful out walking (my guyfriend fell on his driveway once while out trying to get the mail and smacked his head and back — I’ve fallen on ice several times but usually manage to land on my knees, a big reason why they’re so jacked up). Been rear-ended twice because of ice. I sincerely wish everybody would put snow tires on their vehicles since they help SO MUCH, but they’re pricey ($150/snow tire for a midsize sedan).

The cold itself takes a lot out of you. That chilly air blowing hard in your face, especially in the suburban areas where there aren’t enough trees and tall buildings to break it up. Fingers feel frozen even when inside super-padded insulated gloves. Gotta dress up like the michelin man just to leave the house, padded from head to toe. Long johns on underneath, three layers of shirts, thick Carhartt coat, skull cap plus ear muffs plus scarf, super-thick socks with snow boots with deep treading (and yaktrax for when even more grip is necessary). Hence why it’s no fun going to the gym in the winter — takes a while to change out of all that. Wish I could wear a ski mask so as to keep my nose warm, but then people would look at me funny and probably think I’m trying to rob the place.

Winters are just daunting. We all tend to worry about its approach, though I try really hard not to until it is here since it’s a waste of energy worrying about what inevitably will come. But then here I am, worrying anyway. By the end of this month the snow will have started falling, and it will continue to fall until March, maybe April, maybe even early May. Can’t blame the gods for picking on me in sending me here since I could’ve moved elsewhere by now. This is where the economy is good, and this is where I’ve made a couple close friends.

I tell myself that it’s all a trade-off and that these harsh winters are more bearable than Mississippi’s hot-as-hell summers. And I believe it too, up until around February. That’s the hardest month out of the year, every year. Makes me wish I had more tolerance for heat and bugs and snakes. Causes me to question the locals on why they’ve remained here all their lives. Somewhat amuses me to observe newer transplants trying to cope with all this blusteriness. It’s not fun, not when it gets down below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. But I will say this: I can’t tell much difference between 10 degrees F and zero degrees F. Both suck equally. Especially when prolonged for days on end. And the sun comes out less, and it grows so dark so early. And I’m at the mercy of ambient heat funneled into my apartment — not much way to adjust it other than to either open or close the vents.

Some years we put plastic on the windows to help reduce the draftiness. Thinking this seriously needs to be done to one of Former’s bedroom windows since its outside pane still hasn’t been repaired. While over there I can feel the coooold swirl of air drifting down across my face at night. Have to hide my nose under the down covers to keep warm while I sleep. He doesn’t mind it, but I threaten to freeze to death.

But it’s also the time of year when it’s nice to bake since the oven helps to heat the place. And a lot of us sleep better when it’s cold out (albeit not too damn cold). All that time spent indoors trying to get warm and baking leads to chubbiness though. lol

Ugh. Oh well. Another winter approaches. Nothing can be done about it. Just have to be careful. Could be worse — we could live in Alaska. So gripe, bitch, complain, fret away…changes nothing. Simply is what it is. Year in and year out. Like clockwork.

Preemptive worry never does me any good, but it’s hard to avoid. On a brighter note, Former says he’s thinking of roasting a turkey next weekend. So that will be nice. An early Thanksgiving this year. I need to figure out a veggie side dish to bring along.

If it were only weather that worried me then it wouldn’t be so bad. But when you toss in fear over others acting a fool and worry about technologies not operating as expected and then also wonder what’s going to happen to our nation on a societal scale when there’s all these divisions being sown — then worry transforms into dread. Hard enough to stomach a lot of that when Mother Nature isn’t actively draining you.

Guess this is my way of bracing for at least one inevitable set of circumstances. Maybe we’ll get lucky and experience no blizzards this time around. But as for the rest…I still am unsure how to brace for where that may lead.

For days now the song “I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After continuously plays in the back of my mind…

Inching toward winter (journaling/updates)

In other news, I’ve been doing very well on my diet the past several days. Managing my macros and keeping my carbs under 30g per day (20g or under for 4 of those days). Weighed in on Tuesday and am down to 165 lbs. (fully clothed), so that’s nice. Even decided to snap a photo yesterday (perhaps the first one I’ve taken all year).

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Not known for being photogenic, but that’s okay. Working with what I’ve got over here. Hair was frizzy after working out — didn’t feel like trying to get fancy for the camera. So anyway, I’ve been tracking my calories through MyFitnessPal for over 40 days now and am really appreciating that site. Unfortunately I’ve had to stay home and away from Former this past week in order to stay true to my diet, lest he wreck it like usual.  LoL  Missed out on his chili and tacos. Bah! But oh well. Might stop over to visit him tomorrow.

Been working out with my trainer a couple days a week (would like to do so more often but we have schedule conflicts). Beyond that, been going to the gym a day or two a week on my own. Mostly focusing on strength training, plus some cardio on the elliptical. Same old, same old there. Overall I’ve been feeling pretty good. Kind of felt like I might come down with a cold at the beginning of this past weekend, so I stayed in as much as possible and kept warm and managed to stave it off.

Besides that, the new books I’ve listened to in audio format recently were The Art of Invisibility: The World’s Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to Be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data by Kevin Mitnick (narrated by Ray Porter); The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld by Jamie Bartlett (narrated by Matt Bates); The Secret History of the World: As Laid Down by the Secret Societies by Mark Booth (narrated by John Lee). Those first two were very interesting (especially enjoyed Ray Porter’s narration) — gave me a lot to think about in terms of personal security online. That last book was a bit of a wild card, and I can’t recall how it ended up on my wishlist. Actually was interesting to take in up until the last chapter or so, then it just seemed to wrap up quickly and in a super-woo-woo form of a happy ending. Can’t put much stock in the content of Mark Booth’s book, but it was something different to contemplate.

Since finishing up those three I decided to re-listen to a couple others: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman (read by the author) and Thomas Sowell’s Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality? (really appreciate this one!). Made some electronic bookmarks so that hopefully eventually I’ll get around to uploading clips so as to lure others into checking these books out for themselves.

Believe I already mentioned before on here that I also listened to Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (and loved it). Would so highly recommend that one to others. It’s a must read for people curious about evolutionary psychology, biology and/or sociology.

Been getting chilly out lately. Down in the upper 30s the last couple of days. Not looking forward to snow, but it’s coming whether I like it or not. Praying this winter doesn’t kick my ass, having been spoiled by such a mild winter last year (which people around here say was highly unusual and probably shouldn’t be expected for another 40 years or so  eye-popping_smilie ). Just a matter of weeks before I have to get my snow tires put back on (usually around Thanksgiving) and start trudging around in my heavy-ass snow boots again. What fun. But ah well. So long as we don’t have blizzards then it’s not so bad.

What else? Oh, my little brother celebrated a birthday recently. He’s now firmly in his 30s. I ordered him a cake, which hopefully tasted good. As always, he’s super busy with work.

Not been getting out much these days aside from working and going to the gym and occasionally visiting a couple of friends. Haven’t set foot in a bar in weeks, therefore I haven’t kept up with any pals in that scene. Yesterday marked week 20 in my commitment to stop drinking alcohol. Still going strong with no problems there. In fact, a couple days ago when I was out driving along I got to thinking about wine, but this time it was accompanied with a sickening feeling, reminiscent of a particular brand I used to buy and a few bad nights I had with it. Wasn’t alluring. So I suppose that’s progress — no longer dreaming of wine in a tempting fashion. Rarely do I miss beer despite that being my main drink of choice. Not sure why. Perhaps I drank enough of it to suit me for an entire lifetime. lol  Probably.  Still amazed at how much money I’ve saved by not going out to bars or buying drinks to bring home. Saves me oodles of money, no joke. Shocks my friends when I calculate up what my average cost of drinking likely was in any given month. Even the one that drinks more heavily seemed surprised. Note: drinkers are notorious about NOT tracking how much we’re spending while involved in that lifestyle. Starting to think I’m having a positive influence on Former since he hasn’t been going out to his bar as often in recent weeks, nor does he seem to be drinking quite as much at home. I never nag him about it since that’s his lifestyle and his choice and I know for certain he’ll never give up alcohol. C’est la vie. But for whatever reason he seems to at least have cut down, which makes me happy in terms of his health.

I certainly haven’t cut down on smoking cigarettes though. If anything I probably smoke a bit more nowadays, unfortunately. So easy to do when I’m hanging around the apartment much of the time. Though I do smoke less when I’m over visiting Former. My lungs have been giving me a little trouble this week, as they do sometimes. Twenty-two years of smoking is taking a toll — imagine that. Though this is one addiction that has my butt straight-up kicked, so I’m pretty terrified of trying to go up against it. Keep saying I will one of these days…

Not been sleeping too well lately. Actually I sleep fine once I finally get to sleep, just can’t seem to get there. Just bounding with energy and curious about what all is going on on the internet at any given moment. Ha! Thinking about picking up some more of that bedtime (Chamomile) tea to see if it might help relax me. Probably need to find ways to exert more physical energy.

And lastly, my eyesight is very noticeably declining. Having trouble reading more and more without the aid of my new drugstore reading glasses. Former says it’s due to all the years I’ve been sitting staring at the computer screen. Heh  He’s likely right. Thinking I’m going to have to locate a coupon and go in to see an eye specialist one of these days and maybe purchase prescription reading glasses. The joys of aging…

Anyway, that’s about it for now. Onward into November!

Jonathan Haidt on the emerging victim culture

Gotta love him. Highly recommend his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Also appreciated a book he mentioned there titled Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Time for another update (journaling in late September)

Can’t complain much these days. All has been going pretty well lately. Other than my car eventually needing some expensive repairs, life is pretty good.

Been saving up so that I can finally pay the IRS their blood money. Oh joy. Extensions make life easier in that department.

Have been working out regularly lately, typically 4 times a week at the gym and most of those days with my trainer. Was sore as a mofo the other day in my hip flexors/inner thigh area, so probably wandered around town looking like I just dismounted a horse. Ah well. It happens. Comes with the territory. Slightly injured my left elbow a week or more ago and so have been trying to let that heal up and focus on other muscle groups in the meantime. Didn’t do as much cardio this week; maybe next week I’ll feel a bit more motivated. Also got in some yoga after one workout with my trainer this week, so that was nice.

As mentioned on here previously, I put back on about 20 lbs. since the winter due to getting lazy for a while there (though it was a milder winter by Midwestern standards, winter conditions still make hitting the gym a PITA). So I got back up to a whopping 174 lbs., unfortunately, and my weight has stubbornly hovered in that range, particularly after I quit drinking alcohol and began craving other carbs as substitutes for all that beer my body felt deprived of. So…that’s been an irritating development. But it’s kicked me back into gear in terms of working out more and trying to watch what I eat a bit (at least some days). I’ve managed to drop back down to 170 lbs. (once again) and hopefully this time can keep the trend heading downward instead of yoyo-ing as has been the case for the last few months. I blame sunflower seeds and birthday bon-bons for some of this stagnation and have notified my former partner that I am no longer open to receiving big boxes of chocolates on future holidays. Can’t do it. Keeps my butt too big. Heh

Part of its muscle gain though too. Can’t discount that. My arms are looking better defined once again, which is wonderful. Just love seeing definition there, though the overall layer of fluff tends to obscure it. Was down to 152 lbs. last summer and miss that. But I was working out a lot more vigorously back then when my trainer’s own gym was still open. Oh well. We adapt. The new gym he’s now working at is a comfortable atmosphere, so I’m growing more bold there now too. Just gotta waltz in and act like I belong there and not let the super-muscular guys intimidate me. Not that it’s their fault — just that one can get self-conscious in their presence. Get to feeling like a dweeb playing with my little dumbbells in the corner sometimes.  lol  But c’est la vie. There’s a wide array of people at this gym, of all ages and skill levels, so there’s really no reason for any of us to feel out of place. And I love how much cheaper membership is there.

Wednesday I stopped by the local shooting range and signed the necessary waiver and watched the video required prior to gaining access. All of that is now taken care of so I am ready to finally officially start training with my handgun. Yay! They have a really great lady’s night special on Wednesdays that I look forward to taking advantage of, as well as 2-for-1 pricing on Fridays. american_smilie  That will go a long way in making that hobby more affordable. The place looked nice and the staff were friendly and helpful, so soon I will give it a go. This has been a goal in the back of my mind for a long time that I finally can take part in and check off of my list of things to do.  I consider it a reward of sorts for knocking off the drinking habit: allowing myself to go shooting at the range and exploring further weapons training. Really proud of myself for making this transition so that I can responsibly improve my marksmanship (wouldn’t allow myself to do much of that back before, and for good reason IMO). So yeah. Yay!  Good times.  biggrin_green  Already own ear and eye protection and ammunition and a carrying case for my firearm, so I’m ready to go.

Also been considering eventually purchasing a semi-auto to accompany my revolver, but that’s a ways off into the future. Have car repairs to worry about before then. Might even have to buy a different car since this one has such high miles that it’s really not worth dumping too much money into. And that might mean taking on car payments once again.  Oy.

What else? Been learning about the ketogenic diet lately. Not sure if I’m interested in going that far, but I definitely see the benefits in reducing my carb intake. Recently listened to the audiobook The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung and appreciated it. Would recommend it to others! Also discovered several YT channels that offer HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts, which are reminiscent of the types of workouts we used to do in classes at my trainer’s former gym. Had a lot of success with that form of cardio before and look forward to trying it out again. Though I’m sure my downstairs neighbor won’t be too thrilled by what sounds like a water buffalo romping around overhead.  Ha!  Ah well. He’ll get over it. Will try to time my in-home workouts around his baby’s nap-time if needed. Will be good for me, especially once winter hits for those days I don’t feel like driving through snow and ice to get to the gym and then having to change out my snow-boots once there. Too easy to blow off going to the gym under those circumstances.

Feels good to remain active. Actually been in better spirits for a while now. Even my Grandma commented on that. She’s sooooo glad that I quit drinking. It’s now been 14.5 weeks. So that’s cool. Once I began working out again more regularly back over a couple of years ago my mood began to improve, and now it’s improving even more. SO nice not waking up with a headache and feeling ran over right out the gate. So nice saving all that money and no longer having to worry about DUIs/OWIs. Nice also to have more free time on my hands to do other things and in a functional manner. Like doing my nails (not worth attempting while buzzed or drunk). Been less grumpy overall, and it’s become really obvious over the last few weeks. Notice myself laughing more. And that also has contributed to getting along better with my former partner (as I refer to him on here since I don’t know what else to call him anymore). I haven’t felt as sensitive about the stuff he might say or as reactive, which is good. If he annoys me, I manage to laugh it off (at least more often) instead of getting hot-headed or feeling insulted or whatever else. That’s worth its weight in gold: improved relations with my people. And when I don’t get snippy or over-reactive, he then is less prone to do so as well, and contentment becomes possible. Obviously he still drinks a good bit and he did have that bad night back in July where he decided to be an asshole for no particularly good reason, resulting in us taking a few weeks apart. Since then he’s come back with a better attitude, and so I’ve decided to let bygones be bygones and to just roll on. Upward and onward. Bad days happen. Less drama = less stress = less opportunities to create further drama. Glad to see us in a better cycle for a change. Reminds me of what we originally enjoyed about one another’s company. He seems to be in much better spirits as a result too. Says he has no desire to tempt me back into drinking again, that he’s proud of me for recognizing how volatile it makes me and for letting it go. I agree.

Though, he did make a comment this week about how eventually he expects me to be able to handle drinking moderately. Told him I don’t really want to, that I think I’m better off leaving it alone in going forward. That’s maybe not what he wants to hear, but he’ll learn to accept it over time. Not all of us are cut out for continuing the drinking lifestyle. Lots of downsides to it, and increasingly so as time rolls on. We discussed the matter and he expressed feeling badly about being a bad influence on me over the years we’ve known one another, but I told him that I don’t regret meeting him and likely would’ve taken drinking too far even without his presence in my life. Was mourning the illness and then death of a family member and didn’t handle it well. Besides, I’m grateful to be where I am now, so whatever had to come before to teach me important lessons was likely necessary to create this outcome in the end. So I can’t really regret what all has transpired. Just glad to be moving forward.

Am also glad to be less of an emotional drain on my best guyfriend since he’s the one I talk to on the phone the most. Lord knows I’ve probably stressed him the hell out over the last few years with all my crying and struggling with my lifestyle. But he’s remained by my side as a solid friend regardless. Gotta love that guy. Wouldn’t know what to do without him in my life. Looking forward to going out with him to a movie and dinner on Sunday.

The book I’m currently listening to is Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. Owned a print copy for many years (courtesy of my Dad) and never got around to reading it, so decided to order the audio version instead so as to have it read to me while I go about my day. Am enjoying it. Much more interesting than I originally thought it would be.

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Early September 2017 journaling

Had a nice weekend thus far. Celebrated my b-day (one year deeper into middle age) by heading out to dinner with my former partner (ex-boyfriend/ongoing friend/whatever we are to refer to him as these days) on Friday night, with plans to hang out with my best guyfriend next weekend. Received a couple Amazon gift certificates (yay!), a box of chocolates, some nail supplies (a couple of which I returned and shopped for other items I can use), three sets of free weights to work out with in my apartment, and a massage gift certificate from a client lady-friend. Rented the movie “Get Out” from Red Box, which turned out to be the racial propaganda I assumed it would be. Skipped the cake since I need no extra sugary calories (but received a pack of chocolate cream-filled oreos, because someone is determined to sabotage my workout efforts, ha!). We ordered pizza last night (Saturday) from a little pizzeria I’d never tried before — won’t be eating there again, but at least we gave it a whirl. Chatted with my best girlfriend on the phone again yesterday and also had a chance to get back in touch with an old friend from Mississippi whom I haven’t spoken with in several months. And I spoke to both my dad and brother a few days ago on the phone, that being the first time we’ve chatted in many months (maybe even a year?). Then Grandma sent along a card.

So it was a pleasant birthday.  party2

In two days time I will be at the 12 week mark in my commitment to stop drinking. Woohoo. Progress!

Also got to watch my former partner put together a grill he purchased for the low, low price of just $60 in an end-of-the-season sale. Very good buy. And it’s a nice big propane grill that looks pretty fancy. We’ll be hauling it out into the driveway probably later today if he can get that POS vehicle he’s been working on finished up.

Wanted to lay out at the “beach” one last time today with my guyfriend, but the gods aren’t cooperating with my plans. So instead I’ll stick around the apartment with the cat and play online this afternoon.

And there’s a problem with the software my landlord uses for collecting rent, so I’m unable to pay online at this time. So, gonna have to wait until Tuesday when their offices are open and go in to pay by check. Fun, fun. That’s what I get for not handling the matter in advance, seeing as how this is a holiday weekend.

What else? Ordered a few new audiobooks on Audible this past week and am currently listening to Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston. Honestly, her upbringing isn’t something I can relate to, nor were her professional aspirations, but it’s still interesting to take in another person’s perspective on drinking getting out of hand. She claims there are studies confirming that college-educated women are actually more inclined toward bingeing and heavy drinking, as opposed to working-class women in general. That calls into question the notion of professional women “having it all” and how stress is being dealt with.

After that book I’m finally going to listen to Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, after owning a print copy of it for a decade now (courtesy of my dad) and never getting around to reading it (and now having loaned it out with no clue when it will be returned). No worries there though since I’d rather listen to it being read aloud anyway.

Worked out at the gym four days last week with plans to return tomorrow (Monday) once my trainer is back in town from his vacation. Not too busy with work this holiday weekend either — guess most folks decided to take trips earlier in the summer this year instead.

That’s about it for now.

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“…you may be the next scapegoat.”

“Corey Anton: The True Believer (Eric Hoffer)”:

Eric Hoffer’s words remain extremely relevant.

Journaling on a Friday night in mid-August (on my friend’s mortality, plus an update)

So it’s been 8.5 weeks since committing to stop drinking. That’s really good, and I’m proud of myself on this. Demonstrating my will power to choose to do better, for all those out there who, for whatever reasons, like to downplay the significance of will power. Can’t claim to comprehend what those folks are talking about there, seeing as how we’re always presented with options and even people with a whole lot working against them that one might imagine would never succeed have proven they could rise on the right occasion. When they made up their mind to do so and backed it with determined effort. I take inspiration from such people.

Yesterday happened to be my mother’s birthday. Decided to send her a text today, to which she replied saying she’d received flowers from the man she’s dating now. We haven’t interacted via text in several months prior to this exchange, per our norm. Yesterday also marked the day I decided to give up smoking herb for a solid couple of weeks. Hadn’t been partaking in it much since quitting drinking, but I still worry about replacing one crutch for another. So I simply decided to take a hiatus from that as well. Will be good for me. Might bore me into going to bed earlier and actually working out more than twice a week.

Hadn’t been inside a bar in about 2 weeks until today (where I ordered iced tea, of course). There I ran into a female friend and her ex-husband (those two remain close friends), having not seem either of them in months and him specifically since long before his last heart attack back in May. Might’ve been before Christmas since he and I last spoke. So I asked questions and he shared what all he’s been going through with that, plus he filled me in on details about his last heart attack 12 years ago as well as his mini-stroke 11 years ago. Also, he had underwent having a pacemaker put in back in March, which is what likely saved his life during this latest heart attack. Though when he collapsed he managed to fall and hit his head hard, resulting in a concussion that caused periodic bouts of dizziness for a month or more. They say he might live another couple of years at the rate he’s going. He’s now 61 years old, thankful to have healthcare coverage, currently living off the remains of his 401k while waiting for acceptance on disability coverage, with plans to file for early retirement next year so as to collect social security benefits. He had always worked up until the events of this spring, but now he’s unable to fulfill the duties of his job.

He spoke of the medications they have him on and their side effects, the doctors visits and body scans, and the insomnia he’s now plagued with. But what really struck a chord with me was when he talked about their young grandson and how he’s spending as much time as he can with him and letting him know how much he loves him. Says he can’t take anything for granted anymore. I got pretty misty-eyed listening to that portion of his story.

Mortality. The hardest part seems to be knowing that your days are numbered. His father and grandfather both suffered heart attacks and died relatively young, so he’s not counting on outliving them by much. Not that I can blame him there. He has to reckon with this to the best of his ability based on the information he’s being confronted with.

He’s a good man. Very sweet and caring. A good provider and overseer for his family, despite the divorce. Told me that he’s always adored me as well, and the feeling is mutual. A part of me does love that man, just because he has a good spirit. He will be missed, but like he said, we shouldn’t mourn him when he’s gone, we should celebrate life and living.

Wish I could make it to his eclipse party later this month, but I’ll be busy working like always. Will think of him when that eclipse does darken the sky midday on August 21st, knowing how excited he is to experience it during his lifetime (said it’d been 99 years since the last one that was viewable from coast to coast). He does love to watch the heavens for activity. In fact, he and his ex-wife were the first ones to point out to me the space station moving past overhead a couple years ago. I’d probably have never noticed otherwise.

Does make me a little sad to see him still drinking despite his heart condition. He said he knows he probably should quit, but he’d also like to enjoy what time he has left and drinking is a big part of their lifestyles. I didn’t say much to any of that since it’s none of my business. Just worry for him is all, but I don’t need to state that out loud to him. It’s his life, and who knows what the future holds. Conventional wisdom doesn’t prove correct in every individual case, so sometimes you just gotta let the dice roll.

Their family has been through a great deal this year, from his failing health to their son’s apartment burning down due to an electrical fire, etc. She said their son is taking his father’s health problems pretty hard. I imagine. It’s a sad situation. But nothing can be done about it. Death is unavoidable.

Something else this man said that troubled me: he’s not worried about dying so much as who’s going to have to be the one to find his body. He’s worried for his family members being put through that trauma. Yeah, that’s heart-wrenching to deeply consider, knowing all of them and imagining how hard it would hit them inside. All I could do was just pat his leg on that since there aren’t words to comfort somebody wrestling with such thoughts. Then he broke into a bit of a joke about dying on his riding lawn mower. He’s a truly sweet-spirited person who thinks about everybody else first. Couldn’t change his nature if he tried.

We told one another to not be strangers, and I do hope to see him again sooner rather than later. Told my female friend goodbye and I left. That’s all the heaviness I could sit with in that hour.

I didn’t mean to walk away, but it felt like I needed to once all had been said that needed to be said for one day. I miss him a little bit already. Only met the man a couple years ago but he’s one of those sweet souls who leaves a positive mark whether he means to or not. We got along right off the bat, which is saying something since I’m not known for being compatible with just anybody and everybody. Told his ex-wife, my friend, that she can call me whenever she wants to talk and that I’ll be here for them. And I mean it. That family was really good to me when I met them by random chance a couple years back during a particularly bad depression spell. They befriended me and have remained kind toward me, even when I wound up pulling away over the last year so as to tend to my own matters. Now is a good time to reconnect and to find ways to help out as needed. I do need to make an effort at that, to not let it slide as if there’s always enough time. Time runs out. People grow old. Health declines. The only thing that really matters in this world are our people, however we might define that. Our relationships are what matter most. Everything else just winds up fading away without a second thought.

We just kept hugging each other. Communion in its truest form. He didn’t seem scared about all of this, but I know he’s afraid of leaving people who love and depend on him. But he’s likely still got time, maybe another year or two or more. Never know. But I know I need to step up as a friend and be around more instead of retreating to my home. And I’m going to. Been wanting to for a long while and now it feels very necessary.

What I really ought to do is make them dinner or snacks to take over sometimes. And we really ought to do game nights again like we used to. Those were always fun. Make a few more good memories while time permits.

Spoke to my former partner on the phone tonight and told him about all of that. He’s met them a handful of times in the past. Then I cooked spaghetti with a side of steamed green beans for dinner. Worked out earlier in the day with my gym trainer. Have an early morning tomorrow, so for the rest of the night I intend to relax.

The latest audiobook I completed (coincidentally) and really appreciated was Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman. A very worthwhile book. Currently re-listening to A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine.